Declaring war on orbital space debris

By John Hewitt on October 26, 2012 at 6:59 am

The crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have been directed to take evasive action to avoid space debris no less than 14 times, spending precious fuel to nudge the course of their 450-ton home. They have had to pack themselves into their cramped Soyuz lifeboat an additional three times. When China destroyed the Fengyun 1C weather satellite with a ground-launched missile in 2007, the largest cloud of space debris in history was created. Over 3200 trackable objects from Fengyun 1C were cataloged by the US military, with more than 90% of that debris still remains in orbit — and that’s just a small sample of the debris that is making its way around the Earth clogging up orbital paths and making things unsafe for some very expensive equipment.

The Fengyun favor was returned, unintentionally, in 2009, when the American Iridium 33 communications satellite catastrophically collided with the defunct Russian Cosmos 2251 payload module 490 miles above Siberia. Scientists determined that the debris posed a direct threat to many of their sun-synchronous satellites — those whose orbits ascend or descend over a given Earth latitude at the same mean solar time.

Read more: Declaring war on orbital space debris | ExtremeTech.

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